The death toll continues to rise after a 7.2 magnitude quake shook the Philippines Tuesday morning, Old stone churches fell and power outages appear wide-spread after the temblor struck just after 8 a.m. Reports of road and bridge damage may delay rescue operations. Some ports closed, as did the Bohol airport, on an island where dozens died. Residents of some areas were warned to steer clear of major buildings for now, and fear a potential for landslides.
The Presidential Daily Brief
H.L. Mencken once observed, “democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.” With each day, the social critic’s remark appears a more apt description of lawmakers’ attempts to avert disaster under the American Big Top. House negotiations stalled ahead of Thursday’s default deadline, and it has fallen to Senate leaders to navigate a way out of the logjam. Both sides were optimistic after meetings yesterday ended with a draft proposal that would finance the government through mid-January and lift the debt limit through early February. But even such a deal to keep the show on the road for a few more months may be rejected by the House. Time to cue up “Entry of the Gladiators” yet?
Two new reports bring to light alarming facts about the treatment of women within the EU. The European Parliament’s new study on organized crime in Europe reports that a staggering 880,000 slave laborers toil within the EU, including 270,000 who are the subject of sexual exploitation, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. And, according to the Bank of Italy, small, female-owned businesses face far greater hurdles to receiving a loan than similar male-owned firms. Such discrimination is especially damaging in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, where small businesses provide more than half the jobs.
A day after Iran’s deputy foreign minister refused to export the country’s cache of near-weapons grade uranium, reports suggest that the Obama administration may concede the position and allow Iran to maintain nuclear-enrichment facilities in exchange for other limits. Such a concession would be unpopular in many quarters, with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and members of Congress making it known that nothing short of a complete dismantling of Iranian centrifuge machines is acceptable. Likewise in Iran, ending enrichment would amount to political suicide for newly elected President Hassan Rouhani. Only one thing is certain as Iran begins talks on its nuclear program with major powers in Geneva: no matter what the outcome is, no one is going to be completely satisfied.
Most failed actors end up waiting tables in Hollywood. Retired Somali pirate Mohamed Abdi “Big Mouth” Hassan ended up in a Brussels jail cell instead. Belgian officials lured Big Mouth in with promises of a documentary film about his life of swashbuckling, hijacking, and making millions off ransoms in the Indian Ocean. Alas, it was an undercover sting, with the Belgian prosecutors detaining Big Mouth at the Brussels airport. Just like in the movies.
Typhoon Wipha takes aim at Tokyo. (Japan Times).
Deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake strikes the Philippines. (CNN).
Researchers discover ways to break through cancer cells’ protective shield. (NYT).
NSA collects millions of email contact lists. (Washington Post).
Jamaica accused of not drug testing Usain Bolt and other athletes prior to London Olympics. (HuffPo).
Asian shares hit 5-month high on hopes of U.S. debt deal. (Reuters).
The ruling family loves the hardcourt in this remote nation. For years basketball has been the favored game of kings (and a talented queen), although success has eluded a national team that has never won a regulation game. The hiring of a South Korean coach brings some hope, although success remains far from assured, especially given the population’s average lack of height. But that hasn’t deterred Her Majesty Jetsun Pema Wangchuck’s dream of one day attending an NBA game. David Stern, are you listening?
In an effort to consolidate London’s position as a renminbi trading hub, U.K. treasury chief George Osborne will announce special terms for Chinese banks operating in the city as part of a five-day British trade mission to Beijing. Despite their size, Chinese banks have relatively little influence in international investment banking, but greater access to one of the world’s financial hubs may strengthen their position. Looking to lure additional Chinese tourists, Britain has also simplified the visa application process, a step some attribute to new evidence that Chinese consumers buy more expensive handbags in Paris than in London. Missing out on Chinese investment may have been bad enough, but nothing truly irks the British like losing out to the French.
This week, two million Muslims converge on Mecca for the hajj, the pilgrimage every financially and physically able Muslim is expected to undertake at least once in their lifetime. Concerns over a respiratory virus as well as new restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s hajj visas have limited pilgrim numbers this year, but as the Muslim population grows and international travel becomes easier, the overcrowding that led to deadly stampedes in 1990, 2004 and 2006 remains an issue. Mecca itself is also being dramatically redeveloped, reportedly to deter pilgrims from idolatrous behavior — although the construction of several multistory hotels suggests that the state’s motives may not be entirely spiritual.
The hacktivist collective Anonymous has demanded that the town of Maryville, Mo., take action on the alleged rape of two girls, aged 13 and 14, earlier this year. Despite video evidence implicating two local boys as the assailants, the charges against them were dropped. One of the boys is the grandson of a former Missouri state representative, which Anonymous believes is the reason for his exoneration. Since the alleged assault, the 14-year old girl and her mother have not only suffered harassment across town but the mother has also lost her job, their house mysteriously caught fire, and the girl has twice attempted suicide.
Netflix is reportedly in talks with cable providers Comcast and Suddenlink Communications to develop an app that would enable access to the web-based streaming service through cable boxes. Netflix is already available through Roku, Apple TV, and game consoles in the U.S., but a deal with a cable box provider would encroach further on the territory of traditional television content producers. The report comes alongside news that Sony Pictures Television, the maker of hit shows like “Breaking Bad,” has inked a deal to become the first major Hollywood studio to produce a TV show for Netflix. Who would have thought after its stock meltdown in 2011 that the embattled company could reinvent itself as the future of television?
Even as Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo prepare for what will likely be a playoff match to qualify for next year’s World Cup, the soccer star still has time for his fans — one fan in particular. The Real Madrid midfielder recently penned a letter to a Florida judge requesting leniency in the handling of criminal charges against 20-year-old Ronald Gjoka, who came onto the field at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens last summer to embrace the superstar and share a harmless moment with him before the arrival of security. Ronaldo’s plea may come too late for the college student from Albania, as the trespassing charges could endanger his immigration status after the denial of his appeal. But the letter, not to mention the hug, from his hero should at least help cushion the blow.